The St. Louis Cardinals made a roster move yesterday, demoting second baseman Kolten Wong and outfielder Shane Robinson to Triple-A in favor of rookie infielder Greg Garcia and outfield prospect Randal Grichuk. We'll take a look at Garcia in a prospect note later today, but we will begin with Grichuk as Tuesday's Prospect of the Day.
Randal Grichuk, OF: Randal Grichuk was one of the better high school hitters available in the 2009 draft. Selected by the Los Angeles Angels in the first round out of high school in Rosenburg, Texas, Grichuk went one slot ahead of Mike Trout. Trout has been an amazing player and one of the best bargains in draft history, but he was a cold-weather New Jersey kid and had less exposure in front of scouts than warm-weather Texan Grichuck. At the time, Grichuck was rated as a very promising power hitter with serious questions about where he would fit defensively.
He got off to a good start with a .322/.352/.551 line in 53 games in rookie ball after signing. He continued to hit well in '10 (.292/.327/.530 in the Midwest League) but was limited to 52 games by a series of nagging injuries. Continued phyiscal problems resulted in just 32 games for Cedar Rapids in '11 and he wasn't at full strength in those games, hitting just .230/.267/.402). He was finally healthy in '12 and pushed a .298/.335/.488 mark with 18 homers for High-A Inland Empire in the California League.
2013 in Double-A saw slippage in his batting average against better pitching, hitting just .256 for Arkansas. A low walk rate resulted in a poor .306 OBP, but the power was still there with 22 homers and a .474 SLG.
The Cardinals got him this past winter as part of the Peter Bourjos/David Freese trade and he's responded well to the new organization, hitting .310/.359/.529 so far for Triple-A Memphis, with six walks and 17 strikeouts in 87 at-bats.
Grichuck is a 6-1, 195 pound right-handed hitter and thrower, born August 13, 1991. Power has been his calling card since high school: he's got the bat speed and loft in his swing to hit 20 or more homers as a regular outfielder. He is a generally aggressive hitter and not one to draw a lot of walks. On the other hand, unlike many young power hitters he doesn't strike out excessively (never whiffing more than 92 times in a season) and has a decent shot at keeping his batting average and OBP at acceptable levels.
Grichuck has made huge progress on defense. He was very rough as a high school outfielder, bad enough that many scouts projected he would have to move to first base. However, despite average running speed he's developed into a solid defensive outfielder, very capable in right field and surprisingly adept in center. His arm is average but accurate, his instincts are good, and there's no further talk about a shift to first base.
Although Oscar Taveras (and his creaky ankles) get most of the attention when Cardinals outfield prospects are discussed, Grichuck must not be overlooked. His power is impressive and he's worked hard to remedy his deficiencies. I think it was a real coup to get him in that trade with the Angels.
Mike Newman at Rotoscouting.com saw Grichuk earlier this month and has a good report on him.